Official Berlin has announced it will provide the Armed Forces of Ukraine with 16 Leopard 2 main battle tanks for defending the country against Russian aggression, and will also permit other countries to reexport tanks of this type to Ukraine.
German tank manufacturers have long been known for making strong, technologically advanced and highly-functional military equipment.
The most valuable characteristics of Leopard 2A6 tanks are their high quality and reliability. They invariably win NATO tank biathlon competitions. The authoritative American magazine Military Ordnance notes that the Leopard 2А6 is the best out of all modern main battle tanks in terms of firepower, armor and mobility.
As a result of constant modernization, tanks belonging to the Leopard family have become almost flawless. All tanks of the Leopard 2 series can be technically modernized up to the Leopard 2A6 level.
The main feature of the Leopard 2A6 modification is its 120 mm smoothbore gun. All the previous Leopards had an L44 gun, the "44" meaning the length, which is measured in the number of calibers. For example, the L44 gun is 5,300mm long and its caliber is 120 mm. 5,300 divided by 120 is 44.
The Leopard 2A6 has a new gun, the L55, which is 1.3m longer than its predecessor, and so has better ballistic characteristics due to the higher initial speed of the projectile. The higher speed also increases the armor penetration rate. The new gun also fires new, more powerful shells, though the Leopard 2A6 can still use those for the L44 gun.
The initial speed of the new subcaliber armor-piercing projectile DM53 is 1,750 meters per second, which is 30 percent faster than previous types of ammunition, and can destroy targets within a range of up to five kilometers.
This projectile owes its impact efficiency to the greater length, mass and speed and the new material, which is known to be made of a special alloy based on depleted uranium. The kinetic DM53 projectile can pierce 730mm armor. Just for comparison: the Russian T-72 main battle tank has 570mm armor.
When developing the tanks of the Leopard 2 family, German engineers opted for a smoothbore gun instead of a rifled one. Firstly, the manufacture of smoothbore guns is half the price and they are less susceptible to erosion by propellant gases.
Therefore, their lifespan is almost double that of rifled guns. This is very important since even smoothbore guns are designed for 1,000 shots, since precision becomes significantly lower after the firing of the 400th shot.
Secondly, smoothbore guns have thicker barrels. Intensive firing heats the barrel and changes its geometry. In thicker barrels heat is distributed better, so the precision is greater.
The Leopard 2A6 is equipped with the new German EMES-18 fire control system. The previous EMES-15 system served as the basis for the fire control systems installed in Abrams tanks. The upgraded EMES-18 enables the Leopard 2A6 to carry out accurate firing at a moving target at any time of the day, while the input and processing of all targeting data takes a mere four seconds.
Before a shot, the fire control system processes a large amount of data. To aim at a target the gunner only has to select and mark it. A special heat sensor helps him to detect hidden targets and in almost all cases the computerized system guarantees impact.
The Leopard 2A6 is equipped with two third-generation thermal imagers and two additional screens. They show the driver images from night vision cameras that provide a 360° view.
The body and turret are welded from rolled armor steel, with the main protection being concentrated in the front part. The greater tilt of turret armor sheets increases the probability of a rebound. The Chobham armor technology uses several layers of combined armor. This type of steel-tungsten-ceramic armor also protects Abrams tanks. Armor piercing tests have proven that the ceramic component destroys the cumulative jet, thereby preventing a projectile from piercing the armor.
It is notable that the tank is equipped with an autonomous air conditioning system that can function for 24 hours with the engine turned off, and is especially useful for the crew's performance in hot weather.
The Leopard 2A6 is powered by a 1,500hp V-twin 24-valve turbodiesel engine which runs the 63-ton vehicle at 72 kmph on a highway. Its cruising range is 550 km. The single engine-gearbox assembly enables replacement of the power unit in the space of 45 minutes in field conditions.
The design of the gearbox provides an instant switch from forward to reverse gear while the tank is moving forward. The tank requires an overhaul after 10,000 km.
The German government has announced the arrival of Leopards in Ukraine within two to three months.
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